Flooding on the Peguis Nation reserve, one of at least 50 First Nation communities endangered by floods.

'Unprecedented' Flooding Hits First Nations Hard

ICTMN Staff
4/22/11

Dozens of First Nation communities in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba are in crisis as the worst floods in 150 years forced up to a thousand aboriginals from their homes, and Canada's indigenous leaders say enough is enough.

Floodwaters were still rising in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, CBC News reported, with nearly 700 people on First Nations reserves in Manitoba and 440 in Saskatchewan forced from their homes. Elections Canada was monitoring the situation as people prepared to head to advance voting taking place April 22, 23 and 25 in case polling places needed to be moved, CBC News said.

The floods have put at least 50 aboriginal communities in danger across the prairie region, and hundreds of people were evacuated as a precaution, reported television network CTV. As of April 14 at least 300 had been evacuated from Peguis First Nation, which is north of Winnipeg, and another 125 from the Cowesses reserve in Saskatchewan, though News Talk 980 radio reported that the latter returned home 10 days later.

A mixture of snow melt and heavy rains were responsible, officials said. A cold snap in Saskatchewan held off the melt for a few days, but then it resumed. Creeks have turned into frothing rivers, and rivers are torrents that toss RVs around like toys, CTV News chronicled in reports from the three affected provinces.

Although the floods are affecting numerous towns and cities, First Nations reserves are less protected and are suffering disproportionately, aboriginal leaders told the Canadian Press last week.

Pointing out that towns prone to flooding in southern Manitoba have received flood-prevention assistance such as dykes to hold the river back, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo told the Canadian Press, the fact remains that many First Nations communities have little more than sandbags despite repeated requests to have their homes moved to higher ground.

"I am personally so frustrated that our people who are already the most vulnerable, already the most impoverished, do not have the kind of protection that other citizens in the country have come to expect from their government," Atleo told the Canadian Press. "What's really frustrating for us, and those that are faced with this, is that this is a recurring issue. People are being dispossessed. This is hugely traumatic.... It has to stop."

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